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Exploration of the unknown

Would you take a mystery trip?

Created date

January 22nd, 2013

All travel involves some element of mystery. People travel for discovery, adventure, and exploration. But what if your entire trip your destination and activities were unknown? Would you still go? More than 50 people a year vie for the thrill of the unknown on Ruth Ellerthorpe s mystery trips. The Cedar Crest resident plans day and overnight trips from the Pompton Plains, N.J., Erickson Living community to mystery destinations. People love to be surprised, Ruth says.

Hudson River tour

Two years ago, she took a gamble that her fellow Cedar Crest travelers would book an entire trip without knowing the details. And she won. The first trip went over so well that I decided I should have one every year, she says. In fall 2011, 50 Cedar Crest neighbors boarded a bus headed for the unknown. They ended up at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), in Hyde Park, N.Y., where they enjoyed a gourmet lunch prepared by students and a tour of the facility. Everyone was fascinated by the decorations [the students] were putting on cakes and other goodies, Ruth says. Next, they headed down the Hudson River, where they entered a stunning entrance decorated with life-sized Halloween puppets scarecrows and witches with pumpkins for heads. That was a surprise even to me! Ruth says. They had arrived at Lyndhurst, one of America s finest Gothic Revival mansions and a National Trust Historic Site overlooking the Hudson River, in Tarrytown, N.Y. They toured the mansion and grounds, visited the art gallery, and boarded the bus to return home in time for dinner on campus.

Delaware Water Gap excursion

Doris Synofsky, who missed the first trip, says, When everybody came back from the CIA, I wished I had gone so I made sure I signed up for the next one. In July 2012, a group of 50 again boarded a bus headed for surprise. When they arrived at their mystery destination, they toured the Delaware Water Gap with a trolley ride; enjoyed lunch and live entertainment at Big A Grillehouse, in East Stroudsburg, Pa.; and visited the Country Kettle, a gift and candy shop. They returned home again in time for dinner on campus. It s as exciting as it sounds, says Ruth Hanretta, who attended both trips. [Ruth Ellerthorpe] never says a word. You just don t know what s coming next.

Excitement of the unknown

That s precisely the point. In today s world, everything is given to you ahead of time, Ruth Hanretta says. That s the nicest part about it the excitement of the unknown. Doris gives credit to Ruth Ellerthorpe for keeping the trips organized and interesting. The success of a mystery trip all depends on who s running it, Doris says. Ruth is so well organized, so you know it s going to be good. Though Ruth Ellerthorpe has no official training or experience planning trips, she takes advantage of her love for travel, her organizational skills, and her captive audience. We have 2,200 people living here, so I have a large group to draw from and ways to advertise, like our bulletin boards, flyers, and TV station, she says of her success. She develops the itinerary by calling each venue and arranges bus companies with trusted drivers she s used before. They re always very cooperative, she says of the venues. In December, the group took their first overnight mystery trip to Springfield, Mass., to hear the Vienna Boys Choir. On the way they visited Mark Twain s boyhood home, in Hartford, Conn., and stayed at the Sturbridge Host Hotel, in Sturbridge, Mass., where they enjoyed dinner at the Publick House Historic Inn. Ruth Hanretta says, I can t wait for the next trip! In April, 28 travelers will head out anticipating the unknown once again.